Turkish Culture and Religion

People and Religion

Blaring from hundreds of radios; the object of the ages-old rit­ual of bargaining is as likely to be a mobile phone or cheap watch as it is a bag of saffron or a kilim. Even those young Is­tanbul women who have adopted the veil may well wear a fig­ure-hugging version that highlights rather than disguises what lies beneath. There are, however, some clear indications of a re­newed religious fervor in all levels of society.

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Turkey nurtures many cultures within its borders. Istanbul and Ankara have a sophisticated international lifestyle; a cas­ual, beachfront charm typifies the coastal resorts. Yet go only a few kilometres inland and you see an entirely different coun­try, peopled by chickens and goats, squat women in head-
scarves, cardigans and baggy trousers, and men with volup­tuous mustaches and flat caps. This is a country where women work the fields, a flock of small children tug­ging at their clothes, while the men hang out in tea shops playing backgammon and righting the ills of the world. The Turks love to talk.
A crossroads for armies and empires throughout its history, Turkey still walks the delicate tightrope be­tween East and West, look­ing for friends and influence in both directions, and act­ing as a moderate buffer zone in the current tense po­litical atmosphere. So far, it has succeeded admirably.


Topkapi Palace of the Ottomans- Istanbul

This palace is today an incomparable museum of Ottoman wealth and splendour, beautifully laid out in the rooms. With one of the most fabulous settings of any palace anywhere, the Topkapi stands on the promontory jutting out between the Bosporus and the Golden Horn, the first hill of the Seven Hills of Istanbul. The palace has four courtyards, and the entrance to the first one is marked by the fabulous free-standing rococo street fountain of Ahmet III with its own overhanging roof. Built in 1728, it is the most beautiful and elaborate Ottoman fountain in the city, as befits its location. The ticket office lies within the first court, the Court of the Janissaries, where the sultan's elite military corps of slave soldiers was stationed. In the extreme southeast corner stands the impressive basilica of Aya Irini. During confidential meetings with officials and dignitaries, the sultan would instruct that the fountains be turned on so that no one could overhear their discussions. visit turkey and book All Iclusive holidays to Turkey.
topkapi palace - ottoman

The entrance to the third court is flanked by two magnificent octagonal towers. The main walkway through is lined with cypress trees, two of which have curiously interbred with a fig and a plane tree to form hybrids. Byzantine cisterns run under this walkway, and traces of the red brickwork can still be seen under the paving. The harem lies over to the far western end of the courtyard and the separate ticket kiosk stands outside it. Little is really known for sure about life in the harem. Much is gossip and hearsay. The women were guarded by black eunuchs, and even the chief physician was only allowed to inspect his patients' hands. The lucky woman in favour on any particular night would be summoned to the imperial bedchamber, told to kiss the imperial coverlet at the foot end, then wriggle her way under it to encounter the sultan.

No Turkish woman is thought ever to have had this honor, only thousands of Caucasians, Georgians and Armenians, and a handful of Western Europeans. Murat III (1574-95) had 1,200 harem women and fathered 103 children by them. Problems inevitably arose in such circumstances about how to decide the succession, and the usual Ottoman solution was wholesale slaughter of the other contenders by the eldest. When this custom was thought to be getting out of hand, a new method was introduced of locking up the younger brothers in the royal prison within the Topkapi, known as the Kafes. One of the busiest halls in the palace is the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle, containing Muslim holy relics captured during Selim the Grim's campaign in Egypt in the 16th century. In addition to rare examples of the Qur'an, these include a lock of Muhammad's beard hair and a cast of the footprint he left as he ascended into heaven.

Within the palace, the kitchens occupy the biggest single building. There were ten different ones, each catering for a different hierarchy. Today, they  house a priceless ceramics collection. For most people, the highlight of the I museum is the Treasury, where the accumulated jewels and treasure of the Ottoman sultans are displayed. Here you can see some of the biggest emeralds and diamonds in the world, as well as the famous Topkapi dagger. The Treasury tends to be the most crowded part of the museum. Beyond, in the furthermost court, are the ornate

kiosks and terraces with fabulous views, where the restaurant and cafe make lingering even more of a pleasure. Sultanahmet. Tel: (212) 512 0480. Open: Wed-Sun 9am~5pm. Admission charge. There is an additional charge for a tour of the harem, queued for and bought separately inside the palace, and the Treasury. Tours of the harem leave every 30 minutes, 9.30am-3.30pm.

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Istanbul,one of the world's most magical and evocative cities,viewed by the West as the gateway to the East with all itstantalizing promise, Istanbul is the only city to stand astride two continents. Europe is separated from Asia by the hilly straits of the Bogazici (Bosporus), and parts of theEuropean city are separated by the inlet of the Halic (Golden Horn), one of the world's most sheltered harbours.This abundance of water is Istanbul s other special charm.It has been the capital of three world empires - the Roman, the Byzantine and the Ottoman - and has borne three names: Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul. For nearly 1,000 years, it was the most important city in the Western and near-Eastern worlds.

Political power moved to Ankara in 1923, along with all the government ministries and embassies, leaving Istanbul for the first time in 16 centuries without the status of capital of an empire. But for all that,Istanbul remains Turkey’s cultural and commercial capital, generating some 40 per cent of its gross national product.
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The city has doubled its population every 15 years since 1950 because of immigration from the countryside. The 2005 census revealed a population in excess of 12 million people. Its infrastructure, not surprisingly, has been unable to keep pace, and there is terrific pressure on roads and services. There are many sprawling dormitory suburbs, unplanned and unsightly, though the average visitor will remain blissfully unaware of them. Landmarks Some parts of the city have excellent landmarks and so help orient the visitor. Ayasofya Camii and Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) Ayasofya has four minarets and the Blue Mosque has six, the obvious difference when viewed from a distance. The whole precinct from Ayasofya to the Topkapi Sarayi (Topkapi Palace) and from Ayasofya to the Blue Mosque is pedestrianized, and makes pleasant strolling, especially since the addition of carefully landscaped gardens. Apart from these three great m o n um en ts, this hub of the city has many smaller places of interest. In front of the Blue Mosque is the Hippodromie’ which was the ancient sports and civil  centre of Byzantium. Chariot races a | circuses were held here, and the capacity has been estimated at 1000 spectators.

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